Archive for December, 2012

The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

Posted in Book Review with tags , on December 30, 2012 by seguewm

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Gordon Wood presents a riveting discussion on the evolution of Benjamin Franklin. Much that I thought I knew about Franklin has either been challenged as simplistic or deepened far beyond expectations.

Many have tried to portray the ‘father’s’ of the American Revolution in rather absolute and fanciful caricatures that have merely served distract contemporary Americans from discovering the truth about their national identity – confounding our ability to rationally confront our twenty-first century social issues. Wood’s research re-introduces the modern reader to the complexities of the 18th century which, I hope, will inspire the reader to abandon any inclination to imagine our day with any less awareness. Franklin was not what either we or they wanted him to be in order to remain ignorant of reality. He was a far less than perfect man, but one who was willing to engage the larger picture of his day, as we should our own. May our exploration of his life inform us as we pursue the one before us.

Red Letter Revolution

Posted in Book Review with tags , , on December 10, 2012 by seguewm

_140_245_Book.706.coverIf you have been an avid reader of the books by Tony Campolo and/or Shane Claiborne you will really enjoy this collaborative effort. Together they address many of the key topics among contemporary Christians from their particular reading of what Jesus taught.

The ‘red letters’ refer to the words of Jesus, as quoted by the authors of the four gospels. Jesus, of course, left us no writings of his own – which may well have been intentional. Neither are there any recordings. His followers, decades after the ascension of Christ, took it upon themselves to put into writing what they remembered. Others put down on paper the stories they had heard as followers of the Way.

Is there more value from the actual ‘red letter’ quotes of Jesus rather than the ‘black letters’? How accurate are the ‘red letters’ since we find different renderings of Jesus’ quotes by different gospel writers? Those are questions each person of faith must wrestle through as they come to grips with the very nature of ‘inspiration’. The point in all this is that even when weighing in on a topic primarily using the ‘red letters’, we are still only projecting our own interpretations of those ‘red letters’. Keep that in mind as you read this book. Their interpretations of the ‘red letters’ are not the final word, merely their own, from their own experiences with scripture.

All that being said, I found this book to be an enjoyable read, yet one that often challenged my own thinking on many topics. The authors have often perceived the intention of the ‘red letters’ very differently than I have. Yet, despite my many objections to their conclusions, the discussion between these two men of faith from different generations, educational and experiential backgrounds was engaging. Both authors present from positions of vulnerability. Neither assume any sense of having ‘finished the race’. They share the insights and religious practices that have buoyed up their faith.

I will, as the pastor of a new community of Christian believers, use this 26 chapter book for our weekly book discussions and would highly recommend it as a timely small group study book. Agree or disagree, both of these men encourage us to deal with the issues of our day in the light of what Jesus said.

 

An Ancient Future Prayer, by Mike Greenberg

Posted in Book Review with tags , on December 2, 2012 by seguewm

How can a two thousand year old prayer be of any value to us today?

When the disciples of Jesus asked Him to teach them how to pray His answer was what we have come to call The Lord’s Prayer. The question is, was it just meant for them back then or is there something in this prayer for all disciples even now? More specifically, was it intended merely as an old covenant appropriate prayer or was it given as a model prayer for those who would shortly become new covenant followers of Christ? Should we read it as a curious artifact of the distant past or as sacred art for the heart and soul for all time?

If it is a prayer meant for us today, how should we approach it? Should it simply be memorized and repeated on cue? Was this prayer given as a meditation? Or was it structured to help us on our way to mature faith?

Mike takes this ancient prayer and invites the modern (post-modern?) reader to experience it new every day, to let it be the foundation upon which we hear the Spirit speaking into every fiber of our being. Don’t assume you already know how he will approach this topic. In fact, you may want to read the first eleven pages through several times before moving into the prayer. At the end of each section Mike invites the reader to jot down reflections. Take your time. Read. Reflect. Write.